Osvaldo Sala

Portrait image of Osvaldo Sala.
Osvaldo Sala

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.
Degree                                          Ph.D
Position                                        Professor of Biology
Department                                  Department of Biology
Organization                                University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
When did you get interested in ecology? Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?
I got interested in ecology while I was an undergraduate at University of Buenos Aires (UBA). I enjoyed my first ecology class at UBA and I offered to help in a research project that the Department was carrying out. I went to the field with who was the professor then and I also helped in the lab sorting biomass and running small errands.
How did you learn about ecological careers?  What is your position title now?
My first contact with ecological careers was through my professors at UBA. Then, I attended to a meeting of the Argentinean Society of Ecology and I met a number of other ecologists who were interested in ecology but not all of them were at universities.
I am currently Professor at the University of Buenos Aires in the Ecology department. I teach at the graduate and undergraduate levels and I have a dynamic laboratory with several research projects looking at issues ranging from controls of primary production in arid and semiarid ecosystems to the effect of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning and scenarios of biodiversity change.
Describe your route to a career in (or using) ecology. What challenges did you need to overcome? What was your training, and what positions have you held?
I graduated from University of Buenos Aires with a degree in agronomy, and worked for a few years as a consultant first and then as an instructor. After a few years I realized that I wanted to be in academics and that I wanted to pursue a PhD. I was accepted at Colorado State University where I got my MSc and PhD, working with Bill Lauenroth. I started my career as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Range Science at Colorado State University; I then went to the University of Buenos Aires for a two-year period, and returned to Colorado State University (1985-87). I finally settled at University of Buenos Aires where I have an active research group and teach ecology and biodiversity at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I went to Stanford University (1993-95) as a visiting scholar partially supported by a Guggenheim fellowship.
What key advice would you offer a student today?
The most difficult steps are to decide on a topic for a dissertation, and on a research area after you got your first job. It is important to recognize that those are difficult stages and not feel discourage if those topics or hypotheses do not show up immediately.
Another important difficulty, in my opinion, is to learn to balance the different demands on your time. Not only students but professors too need to learn how to allocate their time into multiple activities. The sum of the demands always is greater than the total available time. Perfect time allocation does not exist but we learn.